As part of Winter Commencement, the University's newest grads listened as their classmates and keynote speaker Samuel Sorbello Jr. '22 Hon., shared their stories of hope and perseverance.
December 15, 2021
Thomas Chung '22 has many great memories of his time as a Charger. Whether he was taking part in esports or a Communications Club event, he was a leader on campus who is grateful for the connections he made with his classmates and professors.
A communication major, Chung says he particularly enjoyed learning from faculty who he calls "experienced professionals in their field," as well as the opportunity to learn in the University's new communication space with a multiplatform newsroom.
"My experiences provided me with a sense of community and allowed me to grow and develop beyond the classroom and surrounded by my peers," said Chung, who served as president of the Communications Club and a director for the Charger Bulletin News. "In my four years at the University, I've had countless experiential learning opportunities, both in and out of the classroom, that have helped me learn and develop these skills to ensure my success beyond my time at the University."
'I loved the people at the University'
Chung accepted his bachelor's degree in communication as part of the University's Winter Commencement ceremony. The University awarded more than 900 doctorate, master's, bachelor's, and associate degrees at the celebration, held at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn.
Eldrick Greenaway '22, Chung's classmate, was also among those who received their degrees as part of the ceremony. One of Greenaway's most memorable experiences as a Charger, he said, was serving as a creative content intern for The Inheritance Project. Because his work was done remotely, Greenaway collaborated with people from all over the world, and he still keeps in touch with many of them.
Greenaway, who was also a member of the Communications Club and was involved with the Charger Bulletin News, says he is grateful for the many opportunities he had to gain hands-on experience both in and out of the classroom.
"The Communications Club and the Charger Bulletin News allowed me to try out certain roles that were out of my comfort zone, such as directing," said Greenaway, who will be working for a post-production company in New York and who plans to pursue his MBA. "Studying communication allowed me to help as many people as possible and form unbreakable bonds that I will never forget. I love the people at the University."
'Don't ever give up'
The Commencement address was given by Samuel Sorbello Jr. '22 Hon., a successful entrepreneur who was the founder, president, and CEO of Atlantic Coast Freezers, a worldwide leader in refrigerated services and storage, who was presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
A generous University benefactor, Sorbello supported the development of the Colleen Sorbello Research Laboratory, a state-of-the-art laboratory in Dodds Hall that honors his late wife, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2017. That year, he joined family and friends in creating Pink Clover, the Colleen Sorbello Breast Cancer Foundation, in her honor. It honors her legacy by providing research, education, and awareness in an effort to find a cure for the disease.
In his Commencement address, Sorbello discussed the challenges he faced, from the deaths of his wife and his father and the financial difficulties his company faced during the recession. He also shared the lessons he learned from his father and his brother about making an impact, as well as a message of hope and persistence – something he learned from his late wife.
"To this day, I have never seen anyone fight the way Colleen did," he said. "She never stopped fighting until the very end. I am here to tell you don't ever give up. No matter how bad it gets."
'All of us had to work through our own obstacles'
Elisa D'Egidio '22, who earned a degree in criminal justice, and Maria Serrano '22 MHA, also left their fellow graduates with messages of inspiration, speaking on behalf of the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, respectively.
D'Egidio, who had not previously told her family that she'd be speaking in order to surprise them, shared her story of perseverance. After being on academic probation and being told she would not be able to graduate on time, she doubled down on her dedication to her studies, graduating a semester early.
"To get to where I am today, I had to be persistent and dedicated," she said. "On campus, many sleepless nights were spent researching and sitting up on my computer completing assignments. We have the power to grow and excel. It was not an easy ride, but I am proud of my accomplishments, and you should be, too."
Serrano shared her own story of determination, discussing what she called her "biggest obstacle" – her dyslexia.
"I realized that I cannot change my brain, but I can change my behavior to achieve my goals," she said. "I learned to work with what I had. Throughout our lives and as we pursued our degrees as Chargers, we all had to do the hard work. All of us had to work through our own obstacles."
'I can't wait to begin the next chapter of my life'
The ceremony ended with graduates cheering as blue and gold confetti rained down, a celebration of all they have achieved during their time as Chargers and all they are sure to accomplish in the future.
Chung, the communication major and former varsity esports team captain, is excited to begin a position as a videographer for a Connecticut-based video production company.
"I'll be able to implement the production skills I've learned throughout my time at the University while also developing new ones," he said. "I can't wait to begin the next chapter of my life and career, all of which would not be possible without my experiences as a Charger!"